It's a good thing the Cleveland Browns didn't need anyone to kick a game-winning field goal on Sunday, because Pro Bowl hopeful Dustin Hopkins left the game with an injury and wouldn't have been available.
Victory celebrations were dampened by a concerning update on Hopkins as well, raising his availability not only for the rest of the regular season, but for the playoffs too.
The Browns can't afford to wait around and play without a kicker, so let's take a look at the names available in free agency that they'll have to consider as a replacement — whether it's as a short-term stop-gap option or as someone to kick for the rest of the season.
1. Mason Crosby
That the 39-year-old Mason Crosby is still available at this point in the season is definitely a Christmas gift for the Browns.
He had a down year in 2021, which made it look like he may be washed up, but he bounced back perfectly in 2022.
Just look at his field goal rates over the last four years: 91.7% in 2019, 100% in 2020, 73.5% in 2021 and 86.2% in 2022. He’s also hit a combined 95.4% of his extra point attempts during that stretch.
And honestly, not much more than that needs to go into scouting a kicker. He makes his field goals. He makes his extra points.
He's not ultra-reliable on 50-plus yarders like some of the league's younger kickers are, but if you want someone to hit short and intermediate kicks, you won't find a better option than Crosby.
2. Robbie Gould
Of course, you don't necessarily need to go younger than Crosby to find some length.
Robbie Gould may be north of 40 years old, but he's as strong as ever. This is the first seasons he hasn’t kicked since he came into the league back in 2005, so we don’t have a sample to draw on at his current age, but he went 2-of-2 from 50-plus at 40 years old in 2022, and he went 3-of-4 from 50 and beyond the year before that.
Gould’s not as hyper-consistent as Crosby, but he’s still been above 82.0% (though never above 87.0%) in each of the last three seasons, and he’s 96.9% on extra points during that stretch.
And from a culture perspective, could you ask for a better fit?
At 41 years old, he's a contemporary of Kevin Stefanski. They were both born in 1982, and when you throw Joe Flacco (born 1985) into the mix, can you imagine how much fun they'll have reminiscing about their shared experiences in high school back in the late 90's?
Just picture it: the Cleveland Browns bring back puka shells and frosted tips. Fred Durst is playing in the locker room. The Browns win a Super Bowl. The fun feature stories write themselves.
3. Rodrigo Blankenship
Rodrigo Blankenship being a free agent is kind of surprising. He was a great prospect when he came into the league, and he’s kicked pretty well since then.
He had a lull in 2021, nailing just 78.6%, but he’s still over 80% for his career (83.9%).
That’s a rate that would rank No. 20 among all kickers for the 2023 season.
And at just 26 years old, while he may not understand Fred Durst, that does leave some room for development and improvement.
Now consider some of the other names being floated:
Brett Maher, who had the yips last year and was No. 31 in the NFL at 73.9% in 2023 so far? Ryan Succop, who’s seen his field goal percentage drop in each of the last two years? Tristan Vizcaino, who has bounced around to four NFL teams in three seasons?
A 26-year-old who's already pretty consistent is actually a pretty appealing name if the Browns want to go with some youth at the position.
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